He replied not: he seemed serious - abstracted; he sighed; he half-opened his lips as if to speak: he closed them again. I felt a little embarrassed. Perhaps I had too rashly over-leaped conventionalities; and he, like St. John, saw impropriety in my inconsiderateness. I had indeed made my proposal from the idea that he wished and would ask me to be his wife: an expectation, not the less certain because unexpressed, had buoyed me up, that he would claim me at once as his own. But no hint to that effect escaping him and his countenance becoming more overcast, I suddenly remembered that I might have been all wrong, and was perhaps playing the fool unwittingly; and I began gently to withdraw myself from his arms - but he eagerly snatched me closer.
"No - no - Jane; you must not go. No - I have touched you, heard you, felt the comfort of your presence - the sweetness of your consolation: I cannot give up these joys. I have little left in myself - I must have you. The world may laugh - may call me absurd, selfish - but it does not signify. My very soul demands you: it will be satisfied, or it will take deadly vengeance on its frame."
"Well, sir, I will stay with you: I have said so."
"Yes - but you understand one thing by staying with me; and I understand another. You, perhaps, could make up your mind to be about my hand and chair - to wait on me as a kind little nurse (for you have an affectionate heart and a generous spirit, which prompt you to make sacrifices for those you pity), and that ought to suffice for me no doubt. I suppose I should now entertain none but fatherly feelings for you: do you think so? Come - tell me."
"I will think what you like, sir: I am content to be only your nurse, if you think it better."
"But you cannot always be my nurse, Janet: you are young - you must marry one day."
"I don't care about being married."
"You should care, Janet: if I were what I once was, I would try to make you care - but - a sightless block!"
He relapsed again into gloom. I, on the contrary, became more cheerful, and took fresh courage: these last words gave me an insight as to where the difficulty lay; and as it was no difficulty with me, I felt quite relieved from my previous embarrassment. I resumed a livelier vein of conversation.
"It is time some one undertook to rehumanise you," said I, parting his thick and long uncut locks; "for I see you are being metamorphosed into a lion, or something of that sort. You have a 'faux air' of Nebuchadnezzar in the fields about you, that is certain: your hair reminds me of eagles' feathers; whether your nails are grown like birds' claws or not, I have not yet noticed."
"On this arm, I have neither hand nor nails," he said, drawing the mutilated limb from his breast, and showing it to me. "It is a mere stump - a ghastly sight! Don't you think so, Jane?"
"It is a pity to see it; and a pity to see your eyes - and the scar of fire on your forehead: and the worst of it is, one is in danger of loving you too well for all this; and making too much of you."
"I thought you would be revolted, Jane, when you saw my arm, and my cicatrised visage."
"Did you? Don't tell me so - lest I should say something disparaging to your judgment. Now, let me leave you an instant, to make a better fire, and have the hearth swept up. Can you tell when there is a good fire?"
"Yes; with the right eye I see a glow - a ruddy haze."
"And you see the candles?"
"Very dimly - each is a luminous cloud."
"Can you see me?"
"No, my fairy: but I am only too thankful to hear and feel you."
"When do you take supper?"
"I never take supper."
"But you shall have some to-night. I am hungry: so are you, I daresay, only you forget."
Summoning Mary, I soon had the room in more cheerful order: I prepared him, likewise, a comfortable repast. My spirits were excited, and with pleasure and ease I talked to him during supper, and for a long time after. There was no harassing restraint, no repressing of glee and vivacity with him; for with him I was at perfect ease, because I knew I suited him; all I said or did seemed either to console or revive him. Delightful consciousness! It brought to life and light my whole nature: in his presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine. Blind as he was, smiles played over his face, joy dawned on his forehead: his lineaments softened and warmed.
After supper, he began to ask me many questions, of where I had been, what I had been doing, how I had found him out; but I gave him only very partial replies: it was too late to enter into particulars that night. Besides, I wished to touch no deep-thrilling chord - to open no fresh well of emotion in his heart: my sole present aim was to cheer him. Cheered, as I have said, he was: and yet but by fits. If a moment's silence broke the conversation, he would turn restless, touch me, then say, "Jane."
"You are altogether a human being, Jane? You are certain of that?"
"I conscientiously believe so, Mr. Rochester."
"Yet how, on this dark and doleful evening, could you so suddenly rise on my lone hearth? I stretched my hand to take a glass of water from a hireling, and it was given me by you: I asked a question, expecting John's wife to answer me, and your voice spoke at my ear."
"Because I had come in, in Mary's stead, with the tray."
"And there is enchantment in the very hour I am now spending with you. Who can tell what a dark, dreary, hopeless life I have dragged on for months past? Doing nothing, expecting nothing; merging night in day; feeling but the sensation of cold when I let the fire go out, of hunger when I forgot to eat: and then a ceaseless sorrow, and, at times, a very delirium of desire to behold my Jane again. Yes: for her restoration I longed, far more than for that of my lost sight. How can it be that Jane is with me, and says she loves me? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came? To-morrow, I fear I shall find her no more."